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The Left-Handed Booksellers of London

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After reading the absolutely abysmally plotted and paced Angel Mage, I was walking into this one with some trepidation. I love classic Garth Nix, in that I love Sabriel and the original Abhorsen trilogy, but I haven't been able to find as much joy in any of his other works. I mean the police,” said the young woman determinedly. She edged across to the telephone on the dresser. It was a curious phone for Frank Thringley, Merlin thought. Antique, art deco from the 1930s. Little white ivory thing with gold inlay and a straight cord.

I think I'll go up to London early. Get acclimatized. There's bound to be pub work I can get. And I... I'll try to find my dad." pg 8, ebook

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Susan looked at the phone, and thought about calling the police. But after a single second more of careful but lightning-fast thought, she followed him. The characters and their sparkling dialogue are the high points in this fantasy tale for young adults. A raven cawed from the rooftop. Susan waved to it. There were ravens in her dream as well, but bigger ones. Much larger than any that actually existed, and they talked as well, though she couldn’t remember what they said. She always remembered the beginning of the dream best; it got confused after the brook creature. The slight shake wasn’t because he’d disincorporated crime boss Frank Thringley. It was because he wasn’t supposed to be there at all and he was wondering how he was going to explain— I thought Nix handled his world building well. The main character, Susan, knows nothing about the magic system, so we find out about it at same time she does. Other things are left unexplained for us to make sense of as events occur. I much prefer this to info dumping which can be boring and intrude on the story.

The story gradually grows grander and bigger until it’s nonstop action—confronting monsters, figuring out who’s a traitor, and all that good stuff—like an avalanche. A complex ethical substrate that leaves the reader with relatively few fully bad or fully good characters (though there are some) and that poses open-ended questions. The characters are excellent especially Merlin who is completely delightful, and Vivian who has some remarkable talents. There is a little bit of romance too but very little - just enough to enjoy without getting in the way of a thoroughly good adventure. It’s lighthearted and fun and playful — and entertainingly satisfying. Will it change your life or make you ponder big deep questions? Nope. Will I forget it after a few weeks? Probably. But was it pleasantly entertaining and perfectly fine for a few nights after a long day of work, like a nice cup of cocoa? Ab-so-lute-ly.

The world Nix has imagined, though intriguing, never moves beyond the entirely predictable. I suppose I wasn't the intended audience for the story, but I believe a great book entertains all ages. There are also entire paragraphs of nothing but lists of other books or of artists. It just felt like name dropping. stars. A very different type of fantasy (more of a British urban fantasy) from Garth Nix than the last one of his that I read, Angel Mage. Review first posted on FantasyLiterature.com:

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